Category Archives: conflicts

Transit Conflicts in Harlem

As promised, I got a few photos of transit conflicts in Harlem. (Update: I define conflicts as either structural or aestethic issues and pedestrian-bicyclist-motorized vehicle conflicts.), I will be going out again this week to take more photos. I think this set is very representative of the types of transit issues that happen in Harlem on a daily basis.

Transit Conflicts

Let me know if there’s a particular thing you’d like to see or whether you agree or disagree on some of these conflicts.


10 Tips to Getting Started Living Car Free

Gingerbread Man Rides the Subway
Image by Seth W.

So, you’ve made the decision – or seriously considering Living Car Free. It can be liberating and feel like imprisonment at the same time. These 10 tips will help you get started. If you think of more things, let us know in the comments!

  1. Commit to being car free. If you aren’t ready to give up your car, try being car free once a week. Then every few weeks add another day. Use transit for pleasure trips or commuting. Have reasons for becoming car free – are you conscious about the costs of car ownership, the environment or just want to try something new? Knowing why you are doing something makes it easier to commit.
  2. Get some maps and schedules. Find transit maps, websites that can help you build transit directions and ask car free friends for suggestions on the best ways to travel in your area. Make up schedules for going to work, play, entertainment, school, etc. Print these directions, schedules and information out, or keep in a Moleskine or other notebook.
  3. Remember the weekends and holidays. Most transit operators change the schedules on the weekends and holidays, so make sure to make travel schedules around these anticipated changes to the schedule. There’s NOTHING like showing up for your bus on a Saturday or holiday and waiting for an hour because you forgot to take into account weekend or holiday schedules!
  4. Buy a monthly transit pass. Make the investment in a monthly transit pass. It is a discounted pass that typically allows you unlimited transit trips on your preferred method. Check your transit agency’s website for information on costs, when and where to buy and how to purchase. No one likes to give away money, so this will be an additional incentive to make trips on transit.
  5. Pack your bags carefully. Being car free, you can’t drag along everything you had in your car with you on your daily transit trips. Even if you have a backpack, you will find the heavier it is, the less motivated you are to walk up two flights of stairs out of a subway station or ride your bike 5 miles to work. Get rid of the things you really don’t need – just stick to the basics.
  6. Consider your social life. In some cities, transit stops running at late night hours, which can put a damper on your social life. Make sure you have contingency plans for when you go out on the town with your friends. Also consider how you will get to a friend’s home for Superbowl Sunday or just to hang out after work.
  7. Come up with a contingency plan. In case of emergency, how will you get home? I was unprepared for having to find an alternative way home from work when the 2004 Northeast blackout happened. The subways weren’t running and no one had cars. What would you do? Sleep in the park? Walk home? Wait at a transit terminal? Hitchhike?
  8. Be flexible. Sometimes, the bus will be late. Or a sick passenger will be on the train. Plan for minor delays and have plans in place at work or school for days when you are late. Leave extra early if you have a major meeting or test. Learn alternate routes to/from your destination – if the trains are down, what buses could you use? Or vice versa.
  9. Learn transit etiquette. How do other riders behave? What are your transit system’s rules of conduct for passengers? Check out my post “Stop being a JERK on Public Transit!” for more dos and don’ts for transit. Some of the major don’ts are preventing passengers from getting off before you get on, eating or drinking, or smoking.
  10. Prepare for the weather. Now that you are no longer protected by two tons of steel, you will need to be prepared for the weather. Keep an extra change of clothes at work, think about wearing sneakers instead of nice dress shoes on your commute, always carry an umbrella, think about buying some rainboots or a raincoat – you get the hint.

Anything I missed? Let me know in the comments!

Get up for people on the train… or get your photo taken!

A few weeks back, I discussed some tips to help you not be a jerk on public transit – however, I failed to mention that you shouldn’t take pictures of other riders.

Yes, that’s right – don’t take pictures of other riders! Why? Because the NYTimes will do a story on you, and the commenters will tear you apart like tissue paper!

priority seating
Frances Roberts for The New York Times

Long story short, there’s a guy on crutches in NYC (Mr. Muro) going around taking pictures of people sitting in the “disabled” seats on the subways. 99.94% of the time, the subjects have no idea that they are the focus of his irrational anger toward people without crutches sitting on the subway seats “reserved” for the handicapped. While Mr. Muro says that this experiment (blog) is mainly a source of entertainment for himself and his friends, I must wonder if this guy really knows the danger he is putting himself in by snapping photos of perfect strangers on the train – OR if he realizes that simply ASKING someone for a seat won’t hurt, no matter what the research says.

I was on crutches myself about 10 years ago, and it was a pain to sit down and then have to get up. The pain was horrible and even today, my leg aches on rainy days and it is simply easier to just stand on the subway than try to sit down and struggle to get back up. Back then, it was easier for me, even living in a place where cars ruled and transit was not even an option, to simply limp/crutch myself to where I had to go around campus, rather than getting a ride to/from class.

And on the danger point, Mr. Muro is forgetting one very important point – New Yorkers are not the friendliest bunch, nor are they the most helpful bunch. Take a photo of the wrong person on the wrong day, and Mr. Muro might be needing a full traction instead of just a pair of crutches.

Mr. Muro has been careful thus far to take photos of people whose eyes are closed, but he’s still taking a huge chance with his physical safety or at least his peace of mind. I often close my eyes on the train to block out the action of people shuffling around, looking around, reading, making faces, etc. – but that doesn’t mean I’m sleep! And it surely doesn’t mean that I can’t “feel” someone looking at me!

I can’t stress it enough – it is easy just to ask someone for a seat if you need one – for every person unwilling to give up their seat, there’s one who is willing to help a “handicapped” person out! Just ASK!

MTA “Doomsday” Budget Passed

But, it looks like help will be coming from Albany, after all. However, it doesn’t sound like a permanent solution, so we’ll be facing these same issues again in what – another year, two years, five years?

Base fare for NYC’s subways and buses will be $2.50 effective May 31. Express bus fares will rise, also. Other MTA operations – Long Island Bus, Long Island Railroad and Metro North Railroad are expecting fare hikes between 21-28%. All service will be modified in an effort to save money – some bus lines will be cut entirely, as well as subway lines.

Fuzzy MTA Math
Creative Commons License photo credit: Alain-Christian

St. Louis is facing the same problems as the MTA. Unfortunately, the stimulus funds cannot be used for operating existing service, which is pretty idiotic, if you ask me. The major problems with public transit in many places is its hours of operation and frequency of service.

Riders do not want to wait long for a bus or train to come along, especially when it is very hot or very cold. Bus shelters may protect riders from some of the elements, but imagine if there are more riders waiting than the shelter can accommodate and it is raining cats and dogs.

So what is the solution? Planners and community members need to work together to develop solutions to the funding crisis that do not include raising fares again and again,but create reasonable schemes to generate funds through retail, real estate and advertising. Additional savings can be found in streamlining the workforce. While I hate to see anyone lose their job, some personnel cuts will encourage less spending and more efficient operations.

Your thoughts?

6 Fare Policy Suggestions

  1. Introduce a Smart Card that works with multiple transit services.
  2. Create bus and schedules that make it clear to riders where the fare zones change, if you are going to work with a zone-based fare system.
  3. Make fare exceptions for people riding from a stop immediately on one side of a fare zone to a stop immediately after the fare zone change.
  4. Speed up bus loading by ending collecting cash fares on the buses; use Smart Cards or Transit Cards.
  5. Make it easier to purchase monthly or weekly fare cards at machines by using more intuitive menus and quick shortcuts to purchasing discounted fare cards.
  6. Create and promote purchase of quarterly, semi-annual and annual bus/rail passes

Stop being a JERK on Public Transit!

I love using public transit, but some of my fellow passengers just don’t understand that public transit is not a private vehicle just for your enjoyment – but instead a shared experience for all of us. So, as a public service, I am going to give a few tips about how to be more polite on transit – and ensure you never get the evil eye from your fellow passengers.

Made It
Creative Commons License photo credit: Seabamirum

Please, leave the heavy perfume and cologne at home. There is no reason in the world that I should smell you from half a train car away. Or half a block away, while I wait at the bus stop. A little dab here and there, and you are fine! I promise! Since we are on the subject of smells, don’t bring smelly food on the bus and devour it like it is your last meal. Seriously, the germs alone will ensure it is your last meal. Also, keep your shoes on your feet – and off of the seats! No one wants dirt and who knows what else on their clothes and/or hands.

Personal hygiene is personal for a reason. Trust me, no one wants to hear you clipping your fingernails or smell your nail polish.  I’ll never forget the day last summer when the lady sitting next to me was clipping her fingernails and the nail landed in my lap. Seriously, what do you do in that situation? Let’s help avoid awkward moments for everyone, and take care of these things at home.

Give up your seat to the elderly, handicapped, pregnant women and people with small children. There’s nothing more coldhearted than seeing an able-bodied teenager or young adult sitting and jamming to their iPod, while someone’s grandma struggles to hold on to the subway pole. In the words of Mays Gilliam, “That ain’t right!”

Move over and let someone sit next to you, rather than letting your bag (or hips) have a seat on the train. As my favorite conductor on NJTransit says, “Did this bag buy a ticket? No? Alright, then move it or pay for the bag to ride, too.” I know it’s hard if you are overweight or tall to get comfortable, but don’t take up 2 or 3 seats. It’s just plain rude.

Click, click.. stupified.
Creative Commons License photo credit: juicyrai

Is it that hard to exit out of the back of the bus? If riders exit from the back, this gives passengers a chance to load at the front quickly and efficiently, keeping the bus’ idle time down, and keeping the bus on schedule! On that note, don’t block the back doors just because you are getting off 5 stops from now. Move into a place where you are not blocking the exit, so other people can get off quickly!

Do the right thing and allow people to exit the train/subway car before entering. Pushing and shoving never gets much accomplished, and commuting is not supposed to be a contact sport. Waiting 5 seconds for people to exit will probably mean you can snag a seat or at least a comfortable standing position! Also, don’t block the doors. I know it is tempting to hold the doors open because you are only 2/3 the way into the crowded train car, but be a pal – let the doors go and wait on the next train. At rush hour, most subway trains come every 5-10 minutes – which is not long at all.

Take your trash with you! Did you know that most subway fires in the NYC Subway are because of trash like newspapers and food wrappers? I have yet to be to a subway station that doesn’t have trash cans – so find one and deposit your trash there, instead of on the tracks, platform or under your seat. Try to keep your coffee in its mug, versus on the floor of the bus or train. If you do make a spill, let someone know at the next stop, so it can be cleaned up before someone hurts themselves.

Don’t block the aisles with your luggage or strollers. This can be tough if you are short and unable to reach the luggage rack, or it is too difficult to close the stroller, but scout out places on the train or bus where you can be out of the way as much as possible. Or, try to travel at off peak times to reduce the likelihood of annoying other passengers.

Asleep in the bus
Creative Commons License photo credit: jepoirrier

Avoid personal (or confidential) conversations while riding. No one wants to hear about your date last night, who is getting laid off at your job or what the doctor said about that strange rash you have. If you really have to talk to someone, try keeping your voice down, mindful that other passengers might be napping, reading or working. Additionally, keep the profanity to a minimum. Some of us have sensitive dispositions, and cursing makes us very upset.

Be kind to your driver/operator/conductor. Like you, the driver/operator/conductor is a human. Unbelievable, right? Well, being that they are in fact human, we should try to be kind to him or her. Say “Thank you,” or “Good morning”. Let them know you appreciate their being there to serve you. A simple “thank you” goes a long way to brightening someone’s day.

It is so tempting to start singing and/or dancing when your favorite song starts playing on your iPod, but remember, a bus or train is not the place to perfect your American Idol performance. Be mindful that others may not want to hear your (off-key) singing or see your (really lame) dancing.

007 - Febrero 5 de 2009 - Lovely work, nice man, dredfull singing...
Creative Commons License photo credit: kmilamartinezcalle

Do you have a tip you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!

How would the MTA’s proposed service cuts affect you?

I am not living in NYC at the moment, but I am looking to move back as soon as the ink dries on my diploma. (No offense, Jersey, but I just don’t love you like I love NYC!)

NYC Subway Train
Creative Commons License photo credit: brokentrinkets

The proposed service cuts by the MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority) will affect daily commuters who come from CT and NJ (and PA!) and must use the subway to connect to their offices from major transport hubs, as well as tourists who come into the city to sightsee and shop.

Check out the NYC Comptroller’s MTA Cuts Web Application – How will cuts affect your neighborhood?

If the economy improves and/or there’s a billion or three dollars magically found by the MTA, we’ll then have to face the effects of a lack of maintenance, job cuts and service cuts. Can we eliminate entire subway lines and bus routes today, then turn around two or five years later and expect them to work just like they did before we hit the switch?

23rd St. Subway
Creative Commons License photo credit: senorjerome

I really don’t think so. We have to work toward finding a solution to the current financial crisis. It is unfair and unreasonable to ask citizens to give up convenience and safety (even if it is perceived safety) because of blatant, continued mismanagement of funds. If anything, citizens need to demand changes within the MTA. Will new management help? Dedicated funding? Insistence of more/better oversight by the government or citizen groups? Change has got to happen. Whether that change is higher fares or tolls on the East River, the MTA has got to keep the current service levels – and possibly extend them to pick up additional transit riders, thus generating more revenue that can be used to finance operations.

Additionally, we have to solve this conflict about how the MTA is funded versus what reality looks like – dedicated annual funding is important, as well as the flexibility to use funds for operations and capital improvements as the agency sees fit. The MTA must also look into how to fund new and expanded subway and train lines (Can I get a subway directly from the Bronx to Queens to Brooklyn? Or the full 2nd Avenue Subway?). Rail transit has more influence on how to impact future growth – because it is permenant and dedicated right of ways ensure speed and quality of service. So let’s get on with it, keep the existing service and finance expanded service for a better New York.